12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do,whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Dear Friends in Christ,
INTRO.: I wonder how many new year’s resolution makers we have among us this evening. Please raise your hand if you are one of them. Share Top 10 New Year’s resolutions I got off the Internet. I’d like to share 5 great new year’s resolutions that I believe with God’s help are all well within our reach. And should you and I achieve these resolutions, not only will we benefit from them. So also will our church, our families, our work places, and the world around us. So let’s turn our attention now to what I’m calling in my sermon title “Five ‘P’s’ for Improvement.”
RESOLUTION #1: Be a productive member of Christ’s family.
- Many feel that in order to do that they must go to seminary, study theology, and become a full-time church worker, like a pastor, a parochial school teacher, or a DCE. Not true! All you need to do is make use of the talents and gifts God has given you and understand that there is no such thing as an insignificant job when it comes to working for the Lord.
- I remember when we built our house back in 2004 there was one fellow who worked on it, but who had what many would consider to be a lowly job. His name was Robert. And Robert’s job was to fill all the nail holes in our woodwork with putty. I guess we could call him a nail hole filler or, for lack of a better term, a putty pusher. Explain how he did it and taught me to do it so I could help him. Kind of a humbling job because you spend a lot of time on your knees and even on your belly when you’re doing the baseboards. But it’s an important job for we really didn’t feel we could declare our house to be finished until the nail holes were filled.
- So while the church certainly needs pastors and teachers and DCE’s, it also needs putty pushers, those who work behind the scenes and who maybe don’t get the kind of visibility and recognition that some of our elected officers get, but who still carry out vital and important responsibilities. Things like sending cards to sick and shut-in members, serving on one of our Labors of Love teams, ushering, acolyting, greeting, washing Communion ware, singing in the choir, providing baptismal napkins, making prayer shawls, serving on our prayer chain, teaching Sunday School, and so on. So strive this year to put your talents to work for God and to be a productive member of Christ’s family.
RESOLUTION #2: Be a positive model of Christ’s character.
- Badly needed in our day and age where many Christians have allowed themselves to be shaped by the culture rather than using their Christian knowledge and influence to shape the culture. Not a new problem. Paul addresses a similar situation in Rom. 12:1-2: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
- Question: How does that transformation, that renewing of the mind that enables you to test and approve what God’s will is, how does that come about? Well, the best way is by stamping out biblical illiteracy in our lives. You may recall that for most of the last half of this year I was preaching a sermon series entitled “The Foundation of Our Faith,” a series that we will be getting back to this coming Sunday as I have just 4 more sermons to do in it. In this series we talked a lot about biblical illiteracy which is the failure of people to read and study and learn the Bible. One point we especially emphasized was that once we get into the Scriptures, then those Scriptures can get into us as we open ourselves up to the power of the Holy Spirit who like a skilled surgeon uses the scalpel of the Law to dissect our hearts and to point out our sins and shortcomings. But thankfully he doesn’t stop with that. For then he uses the Gospel to heal us, to point us to the one and only one where we can find forgiveness for those sins. And that Gospel becomes our primary motivation to live as God wants us to live and reflect the character of Jesus.
RESOLUTION #3: Be a peaceful minister of God’s grace.
- Lots of hurting people in our world today. And one usually doesn’t have to go very far to find those hurting people. You work with them. You eat with them. You worship with them. You go to school with them. You live with them. And these people are hurting in so many different ways. Some are battling physical problems. Some struggle with financial problems, marriage problems, problems with their kids, emotional problems, spiritual problems. The one thing they all have in common is that they all need to feel the gentle and grace-filled touch of the Master, Jesus Christ. And you can be the one to deliver that touch to them as you listen to them, befriend them, love them, and care for them with the heart of Jesus.
- The “one another” passages of the NT. We are called to comfort one another, to bear one another’s burdens, to encourage one another, to edify one another, to serve one another, to be kind to one another, to forgive one another. In short, to be Jesus to one another, especially those who are struggling, those who are hurting.
RESOLUTION #4: Be a passionate messenger of his Word.
- One of the most passionate messengers of God’s Word that I’ve ever had the privilege of hearing was a fellow named Mark Cahill. I heard him some years ago at a Worldview Weekend conference Marilyn and I attended. In fact, I was so impressed by him that after hearing him speak, I immediately bought and read his book “One Thing You Can’t Do in Heaven.” You know what that one thing is? In heaven you won’t be able to witness to an unbeliever about Christ because there won’t be any there. So if you want to make sure your family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and acquaintances hear the Gospel before you or they leave this world behind, now is the time to do it.
- I had that experience with my first cousin Dave Kindelspire who died of cancer back in 2011. He was only a year or two older than I. Dave had made a career out of the Navy and achieved a very high rank over the years. Spiritually speaking though he was pretty rough around the edges and to my knowledge was not attending church anywhere, in spite of being baptized and confirmed and attending a Lutheran school during his childhood years. But when you find yourself staring death in the eye, your perspective and priorities can change pretty quickly. And that’s what happened with Dave. He reached out to me for guidance and counsel during his last few months and we had a number of wonderful phone conversations together. In the process I had the joy of seeing this salty, hard-nosed Navy officer blossom into a beautiful Christian who became a believer in Christ and a lover of Christ and a follower of Christ. Before he died, he asked me to do one thing. He asked me to write a letter and send it to his siblings and other cousins to let them know of the change that had taken place in his life and how much he wanted a similar change to occur in them so that they could join him in heaven someday. And that’s what I did.
- So make it a point this year, my friends, to be a passionate messenger of God’s Word. I Peter 3:15 says: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” There are a lot of hopeless people running around our world today and if you live as one who has hope, namely, the hope of eternal life in with God, they’re going to notice it sooner or later. And they’re going to want to know why you are the way you are and why you live the way you live. And that’s going to lead to one of those God-ordained moments or opportunities for you to share with passion, conviction, and zeal the hope that you have and that they too can have in Christ.
RESOLUTION #5: Be a powerful magnifier of his glory.
- The year 2005 was the year that I finally bit the bullet and got bifocals. Though I really don’t need them for distances, I do need them for reading. For when I look at a magazine or book without those glasses, everything is just one big blur. But when I put them on, Wow! What a difference as they magnify and clarify everything on the page. Well, that is one of our jobs as Christians. We are to be powerful magnifiers of Christ’s glory.
- And how do we do that? Think of yourself as a prism. When a single ray of light strikes a prism of glass, what happens? It branches out into all the beautiful colors of the rainbow. Well, Jesus once referred to himself as the Light of the world. So when his light hits you, he doesn’t want you to cover it up. He doesn’t want you to keep it to yourself. Rather he wants his light to come to you and go through you so that others might see him and his glory in you. That’s why Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount: “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
CONCLUSION: So if you’re looking for some good resolutions to follow this coming year, look no farther than the list we’ve compiled here this evening. Be a productive member of Christ’s family; a positive model of his character; a peaceful minister of his grace; a passionate messenger of his Word; and a powerful magnifier of his glory, not in your own power, but in his. And I am confident you’ll be amazed at how exciting and fulfilling your year will be. Amen.